Sloppy play hurts Braves in defeat
Arizona's four-run fourth spurred by shaky defense
PHOENIX -- The pitching duel between Braves ace Derek Lowe and D-backs starter Dan Haren lived up to the hype -- for one glorious inning.
The rest of the night, the Braves battled themselves, the D-backs' pesky offense and a little bit of bad luck in a 5-2 loss at Chase Field.
Lowe (6-3) was charged with five runs, three earned, on 10 hits in seven innings for the loss. Haren shined in his 113-pitch outing, allowing two runs on seven hits in eight innings for his fourth victory of the season.
"If you look at the game, it was not very good," Lowe said. "I pitched poorly the whole game. It was pretty much a grind all the way through. I was fortunate not to give up any more runs."
Forgive Lowe if he seems hard on himself. The game was tied at 1 after three innings, and with two of the top pitchers in the National League squaring off, it was anybody's game to win. But the dynamics of a clean contest changed in the fourth inning.
It started when D-backs right fielder Justin Upon hit a sharp single to left field to lead off the top of the fourth and Stephen Drew followed with a ground ball to Braves second baseman Kelly Johnson that appeared to be routine.
Johnson couldn't field the ball cleanly, allowing Upton and Drew reached base safely. It proved costly when both scored on a double by D-backs third baseman Mark Reynolds to put Arizona ahead, 3-1.
"We haven't been really doing that, or either that or we haven't been getting any breaks," Reynolds said. "Stephen hit what looked like what could be a double play, and Kelly Johnson misplayed it and we were able to come up with hits. It seemed like one after another and that's what good teams do."
Left fielder Eric Byrnes, the next batter, hit a single to center field to drive home Reynolds for Arizona's fourth run. A soft line drive by third baseman Ryan Roberts scored Byrnes to give the D-backs a 5-1 advantage.
"I was trying to catch the ball first and make the best play possible, whether that's at second or first," Johnson said. "It hopped up on me and I didn't catch it. You have to give them credit. They had opportunities with guys on base and they didn't miss."
Johnson was right. The D-backs made the Braves pay for the miscue, and with Haren gaining momentum, the runs were more than enough. From the third through the seventh inning, Haren retired 15 consecutive hitters.
The D-backs right-hander now sports an ERA of 2.54.
"It's a sight to see when he competes and executes his pitches," D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said. "He has a game plan and he doesn't back down, he thinks along with the hitter. He's a student of pitching and he executes pitches as well as anybody in the league."
Haren would not allow another run until the eighth inning.
The teams traded zeroes in the first inning and Lowe struck out Reynolds to start the second inning. But Byrnes followed with a triple to center field. The next hitter, center fielder Chris Young, followed with a sacrifice fly to left field to score Byrnes and give the home team a 1-0 lead.
The Braves answered in the top of the third with a one-out double by Johnson. One out later, he trotted home on a double by Chipper Jones to tie the game at 1.
As for Jones, the Braves veteran third baseman has been battling a sore toe and badly needed the base hit. In his previous nine trips to the plate, he had struck out six times, including four times Wednesday.
Jones finished 1-for-4. But perhaps a healthy Jones still would not have been enough Thursday against Haren.
"He's a front-line guy," Lowe said. "Unfortunately, I didn't have more competitive stuff to match him throughout the game."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.